Demand for sustainable products has gone mainstream, and in our world of an overly connected society, transparency is driving the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) space, this according to a new study by Nielsen. The study found that consumers are seeking transparency around three key product attributes: sustainability, processing claims (e.g., organic, natural) and ingredients, and that sales among products that focus on each of those attributes are on the rise.
Data from Nielsen and Nielsen Product Insider showed that 64 percent of U.S. households buy sustainable products, up 4 percentage points from a year ago, and the highest sales growth at retail is coming from products that tout social responsibility.
So how are brands connecting with these sustainably-minded consumers in a way that activates them at retail? The most successful brands are engaging consumers in a transparent and authentic way. Today’s consumers want to know more about what they’re buying and the companies behind them, and they can spot a fake a mile away. Millennials make up the largest generation in the labor force, and they are a digital, educated, social-sharing population, broadcasting fierce brand loyalty and demanding the real, behind-the-scenes story from their most trusted go-to’s.
Brands like Boxed Water have been successful in incorporating as much emphasis on its purpose – providing the purest water in the most sustainable way while making a positive impact on the planet – as it does on its product. This focus has paid off not only in its ever-increasing relationships with its consumer community but also with its retail partners. Retailers receive a halo-effect of positive consumer perception by carrying brands with purpose-driven stories.
Boxed Water was the first national brand to create the sustainably packaged water category and takes a leadership role in enabling consumer social responsibility. In 2015, it began a long-term partnership with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and created a consumer-driven campaign to plant more than 1 million trees in our country’s national forests. Since then, by activating consumers online via social media hashtags, more than 690,000 trees have been committed to be planted by Boxed Water and the NFF. A new partnership with Ocean Blue Project (OBP) was recently announced whereby more than 30 beach cleanups will be conducted with a goal of cleaning 3,000 miles of beaches. Sharing progress with its online community along the way, the brand is actively giving back to our lands and waters and empowering consumers and retailers to do the same.
Retailers have taken notice of the interest surrounding the sustainably packaged water category as well. In recent years, the category sales have doubled, and today many leading retailers are taking an active role in the momentum of the category by giving back to the planet. This spring, grocery and convenience stores like Kum & Go, Jewel Osco, Meijer and Han-dee Hugo’s supported Boxed Water’s commitment to planting trees.
“In today’s society, we knew we couldn’t just print ‘Boxed Water Is Better’ on our box and call it a day – we have to live and breathe that mantra throughout everything we do as a brand,” said Daryn Kuipers, CEO of Boxed Water. “On a daily basis, we think about how we can serve our customers, retailer partners, and planet. Is it an investment? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.”
The Boxed Water brand has become so iconic to consumers, that a new set of retail displays mimicking the product design have generated three times the average sell-through at a key retailer, and Boxed Water achieved double-digit growth – and its largest in dollar sales – in Q2 of 2018. In order to continue winning at retail, Boxed Water has invested in thousands of displays for 2018. The growing awareness and epidemic of plastic pollution has also seemingly had an effect with 47 percent of consumers stating they would avoid purchasing water in plastic bottles.*
With 68 percent of Americans believing that it’s important for companies to implement programs that improve the environment**, Boxed Water’s sustainability brand mission has brought more depth to its retailer relationships. “Sustainability and giving back to our planet has always been at the core of what we do,” said Kuipers, Boxed Water. “It has become increasingly obvious over the course of the last few years that the more we share our story and mission with consumers, the more interested they become. This is true not only with our educated, digital consumers and retail partners but also with like-minded lifestyle brands that share our commitments and realize the strong shift in interest of their customers.”
Free People, the lifestyle and apparel brand, joined Boxed Water’s reforestation efforts, and the two brands recently launched a limited-edition designer box. The brands will plant five trees for each social media post with the hashtag #betterplanet and the Free People x Boxed Water designer box.
The two brands saw a consumer match on social media, which should be a primary method of communication for FMCG brands. In today’s consumer journey – particularly for the 77% of millennial moms who shop at mass merchandisers and supermarkets – social media is a tool both pre and post purchase****. For brands like Boxed Water, its purpose aligns with the transparent intentions of such channels, and its audience is actively engaged. The product itself stands out online as much as it does on a shelf of blue plastic bottles. In fact, consumers have taken to photographing themselves with Boxed Water to make a statement about what’s important to them – and thus introducing the brand to a growing audience.
Social media channels often offer a glimpse “behind the scenes” of many FMCG leading brands, so it is vital to ensure that the brand’s internal team and agency partners act on their values. The Boxed Water team of more than 50 people support the company-wide principle of doing better for the planet by planting trees in the spring and cleaning up beaches in the fall. The team lives and breathes Boxed Water’s purpose on a day-to-day basis and strives to support environmental responsibility in the overall business community, as well as local communities.
Continued Kuipers from Boxed Water, “Small choices can make a big impact on the planet. Our goal is to continue to educate consumers and empower them with ways to give back to our planet so that together, we make positive change.”
*Google Survey commissioned by Boxed Water
** According to Nielsen’s 2017 global survey on sustainability
***Inmar: Mapping the Mindset of the Millennial Mom